CITYWIDE —19,500 tons.

That’s how much mixed paper waste Santa Monica homes sent in 2010 to the Allan Co., City Hall’s contracted recycling company.

City officials hope they’ve found a way to make it easy for Santa Monica residents to reduce that number through a service that puts an end to unwanted mail that clogs both mailboxes and recycling bins.

Santa Monica is one of four Southern California cities contracting with Catalog Choice, a nonprofit group based in Berkeley, Calif. that works with residents to opt out of unwanted junk mail. City Hall is paying under $2,000 for the service.

Through the website, residents can get an account with Catalog Choice that lets them choose companies from which they no longer wish to receive mail.

The organization then removes users from two kinds of mailing lists called “house” and “prospect.”

Other companies that help consumers stop mail only remove them from prospect lists, or lists that companies receive with information on people who have not done business with them in the past.

House lists are those that companies maintain from business they’ve already done with a client.

Catalog Choice is the only service that removes people from both, easily, said President and Executive Director Charles Teller.

“No one was willing to let you opt out. You, as an individual, had no idea who you have a relationship with,” Teller said. “The fact of the matter is if you don’t want their direct mail, you don’t have to get it.”

The average American receives 900 pieces of mail a year, Teller said, and Santa Monicans likely receive considerably more because companies tend to mail to affluent areas.

To stop a piece of mail, the user sends in a “suppression notice” through the website, a MailStop envelope or a smartphone application.

If it’s through the website, they log in for free and register the opt outs by searching for the company and filling out the form. For phone books, the user enters a zip code and the website helps find the correct directory.

Both the mail option and the phone app cost money.

Catalog Choice has relationships with 4,200 direct marketers, and over 1.5 million consumers use the service. It’s processed over 20 million opt outs since the organization began in 2007.

The majority of companies abide by the suppression lists that they find every month on the website. For those that don’t, Catalog Choice pursues the company, usually through the terms in their privacy policy.

If the company persists, Catalog Choice staff goes to the Federal Trade Commission with the complaint. That doesn’t happen often.

“I can count on one hand the number of companies we think are problematic,” Teller said.

Political mailers, a critical campaign tool in Santa Monica, can be challenging because they’re not mandated by law to abide by no-mail lists.

“If they choose not to stop, we do our best and it comes back to the privacy policy,” Teller said. “At the end of the day, there may not be a legal obligation for them, but there is a moral obligation.”

Getting rid of junk mail cuts down on annoyance, and it also saves resources.

According to, another group that helps stop junk mail, more than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail. Creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.

City Hall committed to diverting 90 percent of Santa Monica’s waste by 2030, which will be a whole lot easier with this service, said Kim Braun, Resource Recovery and Recycling Manager for City Hall.

Catalog Choice tracks each opt out submitted through the Santa Monica-specific website, information City Hall can then use to document its waste diversion.

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